Yesterday, it could be said that FriendFeed "tipped", as TechMeme's Gabe Rivera put it. Dozens of visible FriendFeed users reported getting an unprecedented swarm of subscriptions by new friends, and the site gained incredible exposure via comments on a number of high profile blogs, including a highly prominent role on TechMeme for virtually the entire day. In the wake of its dramatic rise, TechCrunch's Duncan Riley checked in with a quasi-analytic comment this morning, saying after a day's use, he doesn't get the service's value versus Spokeo or a host of others who "do exactly the same thing."
And to put it bluntly, he missed the entire point. TechCrunch is right a lot of the time, but not today. FriendFeed is not the exact same thing as any service out there, and there's no way that Duncan could have given the service its full due in his limited exposure to it.
FriendFeed has been described by different folks as a social Web lifestream, by others a Web services aggregator, or as a conversational platform. But it's not just one of these things - it's all of these things. There are a definitely a wide number of sites out there that let you share all your activity in one place, or to track friends' activity, but FriendFeed is the only one that lets you share items directly to the feed, elevate discussions through comments and show "likes" to highlight individual posts.
See my FriendFeed here: http://friendfeed.com/louisgray
Like Twitter, FriendFeed enables users to sift from the best of the blogosphere to find their friends and peers. No two individuals' FriendFeed is exactly alike. And while I once questioned why anybody who wasn't a Web services junkie and RSS maven would join, I've seen users who want to be consumers of information instead of producers of information enjoy the service, solely for communicating with friends. And while the term "friend" can vary from service to service, FriendFeed has got the formula right. I can see quickly who likes the same items I do, who contributes to FriendFeed conversations that I do, and if in need of new friends, I can use FriendFeed's recommendation engine to suggest people my friends find interesting.
Looking at Duncan's stream on FriendFeed (http://friendfeed.com/duncanriley), I can see he imported his service and added friends, but he didn't participate. He didn't comment on other items. He didn't respond to others' comments. He didn't "Like" anything. He took a very passive approach and it's the interactivity of FriendFeed that sets the service apart.
Luckily, others besides Duncan get the FriendFeed story. Muhammad Saleem writes Where is the value? Connections or Conversations?, where he says conversations are more important - a big win for FriendFeed. Adam Ostrow of Mashable said yesterday that FriendFeed Crossed the Chasm, Frederic Lardinois of Last Podcast noted FriendFeed's Big Day, Dave Winer said FriendFeed Gets Interesting, Robert Scoble loves the service, and both Corvida of SheGeeks and Mark Evans gave me some of the credit or blame for yesterday's spikes. (See: Louis Gray Is The Culprit and What’s the Caramilk Secret?).
FriendFeed is winning not because it has smart folks behind it (though it does) or because it has more services supported than most competitors (which it does) or because it has a strong evangelist (though it does). FriendFeed is winning because it is interactive, it is architected intelligently, and the company listens to its users. Maybe Duncan will listen to this one.